The Guardian newspaper (U.K.) and other news outlets reported on July 12 that during a meeting with human rights activists at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden (shown in photo) said he will request temporary political asylum in Russia. Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch, who was at the meeting, said that Snowden would stay in Russia until he could win safe passage to Latin America.
Snowden has been waiting in the transit area of the Moscow airport — which is technically considered international territory — since June 23, awaiting approval of his asylum request from one of 20 countries he has applied to. Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador have offered to accept him. He left Hawaii for Hong Kong on May 20 before traveling to Moscow.
On June 14, U.S. federal prosecutors charged Snowden with espionage and theft of government property after he leaked to the press details of several top secret U.S. and British government mass surveillance programs. Snowden’s prime contact was The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald. The United States has revoked Snowden’s passport; however, no passport or visa is required to stay in an airport’s transit zone, which is within the security/passport checkpoints.
Snowden sent an e-mail to human rights activists inviting them to the meeting, in which he accused the United States of conducting an “unlawful campaign” to deny him his “right to … asylum,” reported The Guardian and ABC News. Snowden’s e-mail stated:
Unfortunately, in recent weeks we have witnessed an unlawful campaign by officials in the U.S. Government to deny my right to seek and enjoy this asylum under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The scale of threatening behavior is without precedent: never before in history have states conspired to force to the ground a sovereign President's plane to effect a search for a political refugee.
This dangerous escalation represents a threat not just to the dignity of Latin America or my own personal security, but to the basic right shared by every living person to live free from persecution.
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Photo provided by Human Rights Watch shows Edward Snowden during July 12, 2013 press conference at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport: AP Images